The Holashtak festival takes place annually, about a week before the Holi celebrations. This year, the event begins today and will end on March 28, with Holika Dahan or the symbolic burning of the demoness Holika. The name Holashtak refers to both Holi and Ashtami or the eighth lunar day of Vedic time. The week-long event takes place during the waxing phase of the moon and concludes on “Purnima,” when the full moon emerges. This phase, however, is held to be inauspicious and restrictions have been imposed on major auspicious activities.
Prahlad, the son of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, but Hiranyakashipu didn’t want anyone to worship the deity. He attempted to kill his own son in multiple ways but failed. Hiranyakashipu’s sister, Holika, had a unique cloak that shielded her from fire. So he tricked Prahlad into sitting on a pyre in her lap, hoping to kill him. Prahlad prayed to Lord Vishnu and was saved after the cloak disentangled from Holika and protected him instead. Holika was burnt to death, ruining Hiranyakashipu’s plans.
Another belief is that of Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love and desire, who disturbed Shiva’s meditation by shooting him with an arrow of flowers. He did it to seek the latter’s help in defeating the demon Tarakasura, who was defeating the gods. Shiva, however, became angry at Kamadeva’s actions and burnt him to ashes with his third eye. The latter’s wife, Rati, did penance before Shiva for eight days, in the hopes that he will revive her husband.
Activities advised against
Marriage is one of the most auspicious events. As per Hindu religious practises, a particular date and time is selected based on the Vedic calendar and the alignment of cosmic bodies that aid in the union. The position of cosmic bodies such as the Moon, Venus and Jupiter are not conducive to marriage during Holashtak. This is the same reason why other auspicious activities such as the naming of a child, purchase of house and cars, housewarming and new business ventures should be avoided.